There's a young black guy with a hoody on, his face down. Steps behind me. I race to my door, keys out. I try to remember everything that i have learnt in self-defense class. Oh but it was so many years ago! Yet, I'm prepared to scream, kick, yell. I will gouge his eyes out with my keys. I will kick him in the nuts! He won't take me down without a fight. I'm ready! I race to the door. Running. Hands shaking. He starts running as well! I open the door slam it shut. I'm safe! I think~Yet he runs towards the house, I think he's going to try and smash through the door, yet he abruptly runs down the adjoining alleyway between my "home" and the neighbors. I know what he's going to do! He's going to smash the side window and break into the house. He's going to rape me! I'm in extreme panic. I don't know who to call! I grab my phone quickly my first instincts are to call my friends. No one answers. I glance out the window I don't see him, yet i know he's there. I sense him. I'm going to call 911! I need the police! As I'm about to call my phone rings, it's my friend who owns the house. She had just seen my number on her phone, is everything ok? I quickly explain. Describing my would be "attacker," should I call the police! She laughs. "Oh that's the neighbour's son he lives next door he uses the side door because he lives in the basement." My heart stops racing. My hands stop trembling. Shame overtakes me. My friend laughs. More shame. She responds. "Man you don't want to be the black girl who calls the cops on an innocent black guy!" Shame washes over me. An innocent young black guy just going home and yet he had become the "rapist."
Me, who should have known better, Miss, black feminist, social activist. The person who just produced a play called Secrets of a black boy which deals with the stereotypes of black men! I feel shame. I think of all the great black men in my life. The ones who have loved me and I have loved them fiercely back. Defending their honour viciously to anyone who wants to label them anything but good black men!
At the top of my "good black men list" is my brother whom I love dearly, probably the same age as the "rapist" next door. My brother wears a hoody when it's cold, wraps his scarf around his face. I wonder how many times women have mistaken him for a rapist when he's walking down Landsdowne, probably around midnight on the way to his night shift job. Maybe he's walking a bit faster because he's late for work or maybe he's just cold.....
I also think of the worst possibilities, what if i was a white woman who called the cops and described exactly the scenario of what happened, a black young guy, "following me", rushing down a dark alleyway, would they rush over, pin my "rapist" over the hood of a cop car, arrest him.... I don't know.
Yet as I sit with these thoughts, I also wonder, would I have reacted the same way if he was a young white man "following" me? What if he was a young white man in a business suit? Would I have felt just as threatened? Would I have felt threatened if he was a young white kid in baggy jeans and a hoody on? I want to believe that my reaction would have been the same....but I'm not so sure. I'm not certain. And this uncertainty bothers me. Doesn't sit well with me.
I can't help but think about the countless black men who sit behind bars, for being so called "suspects." How many innocent black men have been jailed. I recall the case of James Bain. A florida man who spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. James Bain, who is now 54 years-old, was convicted of kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy in 1974. The young boy recognised Mr Bain as his attacker, but there was no technical evidence.
Bain's alibi that he was watching television with his twin sister was dismissed. Through out the years Mr Bain always maintained that he was innocent. Recently a DNA test has proved his innocence! There are so many other cases like James Bain. How many of the wrongly convicted just happen to be black men?
And to make myself feel better I want to truly believe that I reacted from a place of fear and self-preservation as a young womyn trying to protect herself. I want to believe that race didn't factor into this at all. I want to believe that I wasn't influenced by the daily media diet, of black men's faces sprawled across newspaper headlines and t.v stations that label them "rapist", murderer, BAD ~someone to fear did not affect my reaction. I want to believe this I do! I want to believe that I know better! That I would never fear a black man! I have no need to fear black men!
Because I have a brother a black brother. A brother I love fiercely. A gentle giant. A good "kid." Six three, who sometimes wears a hoody. And sometimes covers his face when it's cold. I have a brother. A black brother......
* I welcome your feedback on this one....